UB2020 – considering the potential

On April 28, 2011 Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo wrote a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo. The letter states in part that

“SUNY should not have second class University Centers. Binghamton, Albany, Buffalo, and Stony Brook, are all part of an innovation ecosystem tht provides the highest quality education and fosters economic development through reasearch and private partnerships.”

The issue at hand is UB2020, an issue that would allow the University at Buffalo to increase tuition annually at its discretion. The tuition would be capped at $375 a semester, and 15 – 20% of the revenues would be used to provide scholarships for low income students.

Additional aspects of the plan were supported by Gov. Cuomo on the campaign trail, but only the following made it into the recent State budget:

“…making it easier for UB and all SUNY colleges to enter into joint partnership deals with private companies and simplifying state procurement rules for campuses buying goods and services.”

If we understand Assemblywoman Lupardo, and others that have written the Governor, Binghamton and all SUNY (or at least the flagship schools – which effectively makes all other SUNY schools secondary) should have the ability to do what Buffalo is proposing.

We agree with the thought that the SUNY system should be able to improve its revenues, IF and only if such increases are merit based.

Mr. Michael Vass has experienced the hardship arbitrary college tuition increases can have on students. Increases (in 1989 to be fair, and at Rutgers University) that reduced the student body by 11%, affecting the lower income students most harshly. Increases that were targeted to improve the ability of the university to improve its post-graduate standing and increase the number of private partnerships at the college. Targets that proved to be widely missed and ineffective.

We believe that any increase should be based on the ability of the university to provide the undergraduate students a higher quality of education. It should improve the economy of the local residents. It should provide also for the expansion of private partnerships and research that eventually trickles down to the economy (though not always for the local economy).

In addition, this should NOT be a power given to SUNY schools (flagship or otherwise) without consideration. Just because Buffalo has created a plan and detailed its benefits to the student body and local community (whether ultimately effective or not), it does not mean that ALL SUNY deserves the ability to increase tuition at will. It does not mean that all SUNY has considered the ramifications, or provided for the students that might be most affected. It does not mean that all SUNY deserves to alter, potentially detrimentally, the local economic ecosystems.

College is NOT a right, it is a priveledge that must be elected and earned. Those that endeavor to live up to the priveledge deserve the opportunity to make the most of the opportunity possible. State universities enable more students to gain that opportunity. But those universities must prove themselves as much as any private institution or business does.

Blanket policies disregard the worthiness of individual actions. Giving all SUNY (or just the flagships) the same options as Buffalo, without their having earned (via long-term plans that take into account the local community and student body) the priveledge of autonomy in tuition increases will inevitsably harm students at those schools. The further effect will be damage to local communities and economics.

Again, we may misunderstand the full ramifications of UB2020. We are open to hear from those far more informed on the issue. We would enjoy learning how we are incorrect about our cautions and concerns. We suggest that those that hold our position, or oppose it, learn more about the issue. Contact you local Assembly member, State Senator, and/or the Governor. Contact the local SUNY. Find out what UB2020 means to you, and how it may effect you. Then let those same politicians and officials know your view based on those facts.

Higher learning is important, as is the State budget and improving economic partnerships that improve local and national economies. But blind acceptance of policy, without guidelines, provisions, and accountability ultimately are not to the benefit of anyone.

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